Planting a Windowsill Herb Garden

By Suzanne DeJohn

Growing herbs indoors on a sunny windowsill can provide a convenient source of fresh basil, dill, rosemary, thyme, and other herbs. With a little planning and some good cultural techniques, your indoor herb garden will thrive.

Tools and Materials

  • containers (with drainage holes and waterproof saucers)
  • potting soil or soilless seed-starting mix
  • fertilizer
  • herb seeds and/or plants

Choose your herbs. Good choices include basil, cilantro, dill, oregano, rosemary, sage, and thyme. You can start herbs from seed or purchase small plants. Annual herbs are especially easy to start from seed; most perennial herbs take longer to germinate and grow so it's easier to start with plants.

Choose containers. Use individual pots for each plant so you can give each herb the specific care it needs. Be sure containers have drainage holes and waterproof saucers.

If starting seeds, fill container with potting mix. Use a commercial seed-starting mix or potting soil, or a 50:50 combination of the two. Avoid using garden soil, which tends to be heavy and may contain disease organisms. Sow seeds, checking the seed packet to determine planting depth.

Place containers in a sunny, south-facing window. Water to keep soil moist but not soggy, and drain saucers after watering. Fertilize every two weeks with a half-strength solution of an all-purpose fertilizer.


A sunny, south-facing window is adequate for most herbs, although supplemental fluorescent lights will help in winter.

Don't allow foliage to touch cold windows.

If you want to plant multiple types of herbs in a single container, make sure they have the same cultural requirements.

Learn what conditions each herb prefers. For example, basil prefers warmth, while sage and rosemary like cooler temperatures.

Pinch back branching plants, such as basil, to keep them shrubby rather than leggy.

Choose compact or dwarf varieties.

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